Because Manch Elementary School serves neighborhoods that often are troubled by crime, building security is paramount.
In the past two months, the Las Vegas police crime-mapping Web site showed 170 disturbances and illegal activities within a half-mile of the northeast valley school. The reports include domestic disturbances, assaults, drug-related incidents, robbery and auto theft.
The danger posed by neighborhood crime was on the mind of architect Ken Small when he designed the replacement building for the 44-year-old campus at 4351 N. Lamont St., near Nellis Avenue and Craig Road. So he made perimeter walls a minimum of 12 feet high. There is a double-door entrance so staff can control who enters the building and limit access to the main corridor.
Despite the fortress-style features, Small did not skip opportunities to create a fun learning environment. Outdoor play areas have whimsical features, such as a sundial, teepees and a depiction of the solar system. The inner courtyards are shielded by high walls so students can be outside even if police order a campus lockdown while they investigate a nearby crime or search for suspects.
Because the school has had problems with student bullying, Small also constructed the school to limit the dangers from within.
Common areas were designed to be in view of adults so teachers can always watch for students who are not playing nice.
Each cluster of classrooms also has an individual bathroom so students can use the restroom without fear of bullies lurking in the stalls. Sinks are outside the restrooms to prevent horseplay and water fights.
Small got his ideas after consultation with Manch staff.
"We love the building. It’s wonderful," Principal Pat Garcia said.
During a tour of the building, one teacher gave Small grief for the concrete flooring, but Small said he has to work within Clark County School District specifications. Some things, such as carpet choice, are out of his control.
The replacement school is noticeably different from other district buildings because it does not follow one of the standard prototypes. Prototypes are economical, but the downside is that new schools are not always suited to meet the particular needs of the neighborhood, Small said.
Because he was updating an older facility and not restricted to the prototypes, Small said he could be more creative.
Throughout the new Manch building, there is a repetition of patterns for kites, butterflies and airplanes.
Manch is near Nellis Air Force Base, but the intent of the imagery used was to create an uplifting, reach-for-the-stars feeling.
Painted in big letters on every hallway wall are motivational sayings such as, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
While many local public schools have few or no windows, Manch was designed with more than 500 skylights. They provide so much natural light that electric lights are not needed during the day.
Small said the new building is so energy-efficient the savings in reduced energy costs over the next 15 years will be enough to recoup the building’s $20 million price tag.
Schools with natural lighting also have been shown to have reduced absenteeism, because ultraviolet light is much better "at killing germs" than fluorescent lights, he said.
Because students are less prone to get sick and miss school, their test scores go up, Small said.
Small also wanted the building itself to be an educational tool, so he included features such as an exposed cafeteria wall.
It allows students to see the insulation side, or thick foam between plywood walls, which will reduce heating and cooling costs.
Contact reporter James Haug at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-374-7917.Slideshow